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How to Turn Photos Into Coloring Pages for Children: a GIMP Tutorial

Updated on July 31, 2016

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A Coloring Book: Starring You!

Creating a coloring book with a specific child as the main character is a wonderful way to brighten any five year old's day. Using the free photo editing software known as The GIMP, anyone can create designer coloring pages to surprise the youngest members of the family. These coloring pages can be bound into a book for a gift, or for use as an experience book (a language building method for children with various hearing or language difficulties).

Color a Memory

Image after the sobel effect has been applied, but before the layers have been divided.
Image after the sobel effect has been applied, but before the layers have been divided.

Step 1: Create a Duplicate Layer: Use Edge Detect

  1. Go to FILE and OPEN the selected image.
  2. Go to COLORS and DESATURATE the image (the method doesn't matter: choose lightness, luminosity, or average).
  3. Go to WINDOWS and select DOCKABLE DIALOGS. From the drop-down window, select LAYERS.
  4. A new layers window will open up. Click on the overlapping photo icon in the layers window to DUPLICATE LAYER. Alternately, go to the LAYERS tab and select DUPLICATE LAYER.
  5. Select the new, duplicate layer.
  6. Go to FILTERS, then select EDGE-DETECT. From the drop down window, select EDGE.
  7. A pop-up window will appear. Verify the chosen algorithm is SOBEL (this should be the default) and then select BLACK among the three options (smear and wrap are the other options).

The layers have been divided, but the image is too light. Apply the edge detect/sobel effect one more time for a bolder image.
The layers have been divided, but the image is too light. Apply the edge detect/sobel effect one more time for a bolder image.

Step 2: Set Layers to Divide and Darken Image Lines

  1. Go to the LAYER WINDOW and change the mode from "normal" to DIVIDE.
  2. The photo will now appear as a black-and-white line drawing. If the drawing is too light, you will need to apply the Edge Detect/Sobel effect again.

Increase the Detail and Make the Coloring Page Bolder

  1. Ensure the duplicate layer is still highlighted. Go to FILTERS and select EDGE DETECT and EDGE. From the pop-up window, select SOBEL and BLACK as the options.
  2. Repeat Step 1 until the coloring page has a detailed, finished look.
  3. Go to FILE and SAVE the image with an identifying file name.

The Many Uses of Personalized Coloring Pages

Print the coloring pages and use them for gifts, classroom lesson plans, or unique wall art. If printed onto an iron-on transfer, the image can be printed onto T-shirts. Be creative, and inspire a budding young artist to break out the crayons and color a very unique picture!

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    • Chasity 4 years ago

      are you kidding me?! your instuctions make absolutely no sense!

    • leahlefler profile image
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      leahlefler 4 years ago from Western New York

      Chastity, what portion of the instructions are you having difficulty with? How familiar are you with GIMP and the use of layers?

    • Cross 3 years ago

      Amazing, thanks... crystal clear, I did your steps one by one (even a blink monkey with iron gloves could do it) and got a perfect colorable image.

    • leahlefler profile image
      Author

      leahlefler 3 years ago from Western New York

      Thanks, Cross - I make coloring pages for my kids on a regular basis. They love the personalized books! I do want to make a video of this process to make the process a bit clearer to those who aren't familiar with the basics of GIMP.

    • Adam 3 years ago

      I get to divide and the picture is still black. I have to invert it to get it to look like anything remotely like your example but even then there are odd dark places.

      Am I missing a step somewhere?

    • leahlefler profile image
      Author

      leahlefler 3 years ago from Western New York

      Hi Adam, I just ran through the sequence again and it is working perfectly as written. When you duplicate the layer, make sure you have selected the duplicated layer in the dockable dialogs window before selecting the sobel filter and dividing the layers. All of the actions should be performed on the duplicated layer and not on the original layer. If you are still having problems, let me know.. you can send me a copy of the photo, if desired (my email contact is on my profile page) and I can try doing it from here to see if there is some other problem going on (if the photo is too dark, it may not detect the edges properly, etc.).

    • PK 16 months ago

      Google found this for me and it was perfect. Many thanks!

    • leahlefler profile image
      Author

      leahlefler 16 months ago from Western New York

      I'm glad it helped, PK! I love making coloring pages for kids.

    • Lucia 9 months ago

      Never used GIMP before although I have it in my PC... Your instructions are very strighforward and I made a beautiful coloring page with a family photo, thank you, now I will be making more for my children to color.

    • HL 3 months ago

      This doesn't seem to be working for me at all...nothing changes in the picture after the desaturate step. Thanks for your help :)

    • Sue 3 months ago

      Hi: I followed the instructions exactly and could not get it to work. The picture went from color to black & white and did not change to a coloring page. I'm using a Mac - is there any other steps I'm missing with a Mac?

    • randy 4 weeks ago

      when i tried to repeat the process on the duplicate i got a white image

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